Second basemen are up next in the JD’s continuing series of top 10 at each position. Since there are questions as to how I’m breaking this down, I’ll give the categories I use to determine my rankings:
All categories will be graded on a 1-5 scale. If two players have similar numbers, they share the points. Meaning, three hitters have HRs of 34, 31, and 30, they all get the same point value.
I gave double weight to: K% (can’t strike out a lot), ISO (extra base hits), wOBA (more explicit than OBP), WPA (does he help his team win), and UZR/150 (defensive ability scaled to 150 games)
Triple weight goes to: wRC+ and WAR
Again, all second basemen must play at least 50% of their games at the position and have no less than 800 plate appearances from 2016-2017.
#10- Joe Panik, Giants
A pretty good fielder, Panik had a rough 2016 but did an about-face in 2017. Panik might be the best of the group when it comes to plate discipline. His swing percentage is a bit below average, which legitimizes his whiff rate (4.3%), K% (9.2%), and zone contact (49.9%). Panik is a well-balanced second basemen who could break out in 2018.
#9- Neil Walker, —
Walker is unemployed for the moment but whomever signs him is going to get a great second baseman. He’s been a positive asset for the teams he’s played for; 5th in win probability added and in WPA high leverage. A strong defender and even better at the plate, he’s still got a nice bit of power and can make a lot happen with his bat. Regression could come knocking but Walker has stepped up his game in the last two years.
#8- Jonathan Schoop, Orioles
Schoop is a power hitter (3rd in HRs) who hits for average. He’s held a .280 batting average and a .199 ISO the last two seasons. Schoop’s still young and had a big year last season; between ’16 and ’17, he’s missed just two games (322 games played). He’s a good defender at second and has one of the best arms at the position.
#7- Ian Kinsler, Tigers
Kinsler, entering his 13th year in MLB, has been one of the most consistent players in all of baseball through that entire career. He’s had some big years (2011, 2014, 2016) with 5+ WAR, and with the exception of his rookie year, he’s never posted a sub-2.4 WAR. Kinsler will turn 36 and has played less than 150 games 5 times in his career. He’s still projected to be an above average player; how long he can keep this up depends on his health.
#6-DJ LeMahieu, Rockies
LeMahieu isn’t flashy but has posted 11 DRS; his offense is what propels him up the rankings. He leads all qualifying second basemen in zone contacts and whiff rate. Yes he plays in Colorado, though he doesn’t reap the fruits that power hitters do. Yet, even when he plays on the road he’s still an above average hitter. He leads all qualifying second basemen in zone contact and whiff rate.
Home- 342 PA, 3 HR, .369 BABIP, .813 OPS
Away- 340 PA, 5 HR, .339 BABIP, .753 OPS
#5- Brian Dozier, Twins
Dozier has blown up into a top-tier MLB player; averaging 5+ WAR the last two seasons. He leads his contemporaries in home runs (76) and ISO (.252), while placing second in wOBA, high leverage win probability, and WAR. He’s been healthy as he’s played in at least 152 games the last four years. He doesn’t show you much defensively but you can overlook even a poor defensive performance with his offensive prowess. Here’s one of his 76 homers:
#4- Robinson Cano, Mariners
35-year-old Cano, entering his 14th MLB season, has played at least 150 games since 2007; that 150 was in 2017. Still an outstanding defender at his age, he hasn’t slowed down with his bat, either (.297 BA, 62 HR, .205 ISO). In all the categories that I evaluated these players with, Cano was in the top 5 in just about all of them.
#3- Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
It’s not a stretch to say that Pedroia, entering his 13th season, is the best defensive second basemen (on this list, anyway). He leads the group in UZR/150 (12.2) and is sixth in DRS (10). He’s kept his Ks down his entire career and still hits slightly below .300 the last few years. Will Pedroia ever slow down? It doesn’t look like it’ll happen in 2018, anyway.
#2- Daniel Murphy, Nationals
The New York Mets are still kicking themselves for letting go of Murphy, who had a career breakthrough the last two seasons in Washington. It took four years in New York to accomplish what he did in two years with the Nats (in terms of WAR). Murphy is tops in wOBA, WPA+WPA/li, and zone contact. His power is second-best (.235) and wRC+ (146) and batting average (.334). I don’t get (or condone) the pessimistic outlook for Murphy in 2018 (~2.6 projected WAR).
#1- Jose Altuve, Astros
If we can’t agree he’s the best than you’re watching baseball the wrong way.